Red planet returns: The best times to see Mars at its biggest and brightest

It's the opportunity of a lifetime.
It's the opportunity of a lifetime. Photo credit: Getty

Mars, the mysterious Red Planet, is about to make a special viewing in our sky.

Over the next two months, Mars will be brighter and bigger than usual, providing Kiwis with their best look at the red planet with an unaided eye.

Mars and Earth line up every two years, but this year is special because Mars will be at its closest to us since 2003.

Stardome has released a chart showing the best times to get outside for a peek at the rare occurrence.

"Viewing Mars during this exciting celestial event is not restricted to the 27 or 31 of July," it says.

"You will still catch superb views for several weeks on either side of opposition. While telescope viewing will yield the best results, the unaided eye will still spot Mars looking like the brightest, reddest 'star' in the night sky."

Stardome has released a chart showing the best times.
Stardome has released a chart showing the best times. Photo credit: Stardome

"In early July, you'll have to stay up until the early hours of the morning for a perfect view of the planet," a Stardome spokesperson told Newshub.

"However, as the weeks go on, suitable viewing will occur earlier each night so you should be able to spot the beauty in the sky as it rises in the east shortly after dinner time."

Stardome will be hosting events throughout July and August to celebrate the occurrence, with their Zeiss telescope open for extended hours.

New Zealanders will also be lucky enough to witness the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st Century, which is expected on July 28.

The total eclipse, which is estimated to last for nearly two hours, occurs when the Sun, Moon and Earth align.

When the moon moves into the deepest part of the Earth's shadow, the moon gains a red tint, giving it the nickname 'Blood Moon'.

Only the Eastern Hemisphere, which includes most of Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, will have the chance to see the eclipse.